Variation in lipid A structure in the pathogenic yersiniae

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Jun;52(5):1363-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04059.x.


Important pathogens in the genus Yersinia include the plague bacillus Yersinia pestis and two enteropathogenic species, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Yersinia enterocolitica. A shift in growth temperature induced changes in the number and type of acyl groups on the lipid A of all three species. After growth at 37 degrees C, Y. pestis lipopolysaccharide (LPS) contained the tetra-acylated lipid IV(A) and smaller amounts of lipid IV(A) modified with C10 or C12 acyl groups, Y. pseudotuberculosis contained the same forms as part of a more heterogeneous population in which lipid IV(A) modified with C16:0 predominated, and Y. enterocolitica produced a unique tetra-acylated lipid A. When grown at 21 degrees C, however, the three yersiniae synthesized LPS containing predominantly hexa-acylated lipid A. This more complex lipid A stimulated human monocytes to secrete tumour necrosis factor-alpha, whereas the lipid A synthesized by the three species at 37 degrees C did not. The Y. pestis phoP gene was required for aminoarabinose modification of lipid A, but not for the temperature-dependent acylation changes. The results suggest that the production of a less immunostimulatory form of LPS upon entry into the mammalian host is a conserved pathogenesis mechanism in the genus Yersinia, and that species-specific lipid A forms may be important for life cycle and pathogenicity differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Lipid A / chemistry*
  • Lipid A / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Molecular Structure
  • Monocytes / cytology
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Temperature
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Yersinia / chemistry*
  • Yersinia / metabolism
  • Yersinia / pathogenicity*


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Lipid A
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • PhoP protein, Bacteria